Everybody likes it, it has a mild flavor and can be eaten on its own, fresh or cooked, or declined in numerous sophisticated recipes. It’s tuna fish!
It is quite easy to find tuna fish at the supermarket, in pieces or canned, and almost everybody has eaten it once in life. But have you ever tasted salted tuna?
The tuna heart, dried and salted, is a specialty of Sicilian and Sardinian cuisine, similar to bottarga and appreciated by lovers of seafood. The processing of the heart of tuna is similar to that of fish roe. The heart is salted and placed between two tables under a press. After 20 days it is placed to dry in the shade, in a ventilated area. The cured tuna heart has a strong taste, therefore it doesn’t require special seasoning. It is used in appetizers, just seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, in salads or grated flakes on pasta.
It is not easy to find this excellent product, and even in Italy only few gourmet stores sell it.
Yet, today you can buy dry tuna heart, even in the United States, thanks to some new specialty food online stores.
But why is tuna fish so important in the Mediterranean diet? Tuna belongs to the Thunnidae family that can reach a length of over 3 meters and whose most succulent part is the belly. Yet, smaller tuna fishes are the most valuable ones since their meat is softer and more tasty.
The nutritional properties of tuna are remarkable; it is so good for human health that it should never be excluded from our diet. It is rich in protein and Omega 3, low in fat and vitamins such as A, B12, E and D.
And its calories don’t depend on the meat itself, but more on the fact that the tuna is often preserved in sunflower oil, which is high fat, or cooked with too much seasoning. On the contrary, tuna on its own is a true ally of the diet and is good for the heart, it monitors the cholesterol levels and makes our skin more beautiful.
This fish is caught in the Mediterranean sea, and in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans, usually using nets called tuna traps, more rarely with lines or harpoons.
The spread of sushi and sashimi has had a devastating impact on bluefin tuna. Today, tuna is a species threatened with extinction due to an excessive and out of control catch that is breaking its reproductive cycles and causing huge damages to the whole ecosystem. Overfishing has decimated the populations of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean, bringing the species to the brink of extinction. Regulatory bodies have been unable to impose sufficiently severe catch quotas and illegal fishing is widespread worldwide. It seems that only the captive breeding of bluefin tuna could save this species. In Spain, it was possible to achieve in vitro fertilization of bluefin tuna eggs in captivity. But it is still a great challenge.
Therefore, great attention should be paid to this situation, while remaining aware of the importance of tuna for our health. In other words: eat tuna but responsibly, and you will bring great benefits to your health… and to the sea!